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Don't stack the corners

Tuesday 8/2/22

I saw where a woman said she was an open book, and to turn the pages and unravel her. This annoyed me much. Do you not know what a book is and how turning pages works? Or do you not know what the word "unravel" means? It's true--I am hypersensitive to this kind of thing. It causes me pain. Like a stabbing or a jolt. Hundreds of times a day. This is my version of nails on a chalkboard. How we communicate is crucial. Ultimately, that's the bulk of what we have, if we have anything. What binds us to each other, or doesn't. How we communicate says so much about us. Just like remarking, "You knew what she meant," would say a lot about the person saying that. Never is it the triumphant, argument-cinching point that people think it is. And when someone acts that way, I know everything I need to know about them. I know all there is to know about them.

It's moot whether I could deduce what was meant or not. Shouldn't come to that. Have pride in your language, in your modes and efficiency of expression. Get it right. That matters. Do the good job. Represent yourself well. I'm not here to decipher what someone says, like I'm their interpreter or it's my job to provide excuses for them. No one is. You're an adult. Be a smart adult. Talk like one. Write like one. You should expect that from yourself, and demand it of yourself. Have some pride. Don't cut corners here. If you don't know something, learn it. If you cut corners here, you'll cut corners elsewhere, and if you cut corners elsewhere, you'll cut them everywhere, and eventually your entire life is a stack of cut corners. You shouldn't want that for yourself. You won't have meaning. You won't have self-respect. You'll end up depressed. You'll go through motions. It's not just a mixed metaphor, this example of the unraveling pages--it's indicative of something else. Our language says volumes much about us. Funny thing about cutting corners too--it ends up making more work for you to dig yourself out from under that stack, which becomes overwhelming, and more work than just about anyone could do, and a sufficient amount that they don't even try, because it's so overwhelming--where to start, right?--and they give in to coasting and nullity. Hooray. Also probably excessive self-medication. Because there isn't much else come that point. There's playing out the string.

I wouldn't do this--I would need to be provoked; and then once I am provoked, you brought that on yourself, and it's go-time, but not in such a way that I wouldn't be perfectly comfortable with a million people seeing what I said--but if I pointed out this mixed metaphor to this woman, or asked the questions above--politely, not so I was sniping at her--she would have either had a fit, or told me I was wrong, or both. I guarantee you though that she'd rant that she was correct. She'd likely make a few sexist remarks as well. If she then learned who I was, which would confirm to her that I definitely knew--as she already probably figured, despite the doubling down--she'd get more angry. The more she learned about what I do--because I know from experience with people, and especially publishing people--the more angry she'd become.

That's an ironic thing. Someone--a certain kind of someone--sees you do something really well, and best case scenario, they begrudge you for that, but often they hate you. Then they learn you do this other totally different thing as well, and the hate goes up. (For instance, it can be learning that the jazz guy is the hockey guy. And then you go from there. Or that fiction guy is Beatles guy. Or this kind of fiction guy is also that kind of fiction guy. Or film book guy is op-ed guy. Etc. And then to get into the ver specific categories, and see that Orson Welles guy is Billie Holiday guy is F. Scott Fitzgerald guy. More issues. More opportunities for the animus and anger.) The longer it goes on that they can keep searching and keep being surprised--that is, the further the borders continue extending--the more upset they get. They can lose their minds. They weren't very rational to begin with, but they end up just totally bestial. They can't control themselves at that point. They may do something they're later going to desperately wish they could take back. Perhaps because it ended up on here. And because every word was true.

The problem, paradoxically, is when you think you must have reached the end, you find a totally different thing that person does, and so much of it, too, and at that level. Anyway. I just meant to say I found that irksome. Some days--most days--I would figuratively kill to see one clear, correct sentence from anyone, anywhere. Just one single simple sentence. Not one of any intelligence or artistry. Just what I said. Proof that what someone was able to do in second grade, and was expected to be able to do in second grade, is still something they can do forty years later.

I pitched something yesterday on Bill Russell as a player--his skill set, what made him so good, how he'd fare in other eras, including the current one, and why--but it didn't get assigned. Unfortunate. Would have been really good.

Last week I had written a piece about a nickel from 1941. Subsequently, I took that and turned it into a short story. There is nothing like it. I can say that all of the time with much, but that doesn't make it less true. The fiction version is called "My Nickel." I'll discuss it on the radio this evening. It would be good to have parts of it read as well. I cannot pretend that it's not mind-blowing, and what purpose would that serve? No one can produce anything close to this. I sent it to a bigot like Sudip Bose at The American Scholar. He knows what it is. Anyone would know how good it is. But you have an industry trying to stop the world from seeing this work, and certainly doing everything possible not to endorse or support it. This has gone on for like fifteen years at this place. Pure bigot, Mr. Bose. 100% proof.

Over the weekend I wrote a story called "Don't Tell Me," in which each paragraph--which is a single comma-less sentence--starts with those words. So it's like forty lines or whatever it is. You could live your life by it.

On Friday--I think it was Friday--I wrote a story called "Outlast the Earth." I have been thinking that about my work of late, what I'm creating day in, day out, how it could outlast the earth. That idea was in my mind. The story is about an adult and a child--the former is referred to as a protector, for much of the narrative--sitting on this old wood bridge above a river on the day the world ends, which everyone has only known about for a day. They could go anywhere--well, reasonably speaking, within a certain distance--but they chose to come here. They can see the consuming fireball approach in the sky. The sun cleaves into two portions, one of which begins to descend. The story starts by the child saying she thinks she can outlast the earth. Usually when they go to this bridge there are men there fishing--you know, one guy, two guys. Separately. And the girl has never seen any evidence of a fish being caught. There's this one man she sees most often out of the various fishermen, who is also the oldest. She imagines him there on the bridge that day, pulling up fish after fish, a huge pile, his luck having turned. Then this conversation she can finally have with him, that she didn't have before, because she didn't want to be rude. It's a beautiful story.

Sunday I began a ghost story, called "An Eye in the Door." I like the idea of stories that a lot of people have possession of, because of where they live. Stories that they come into. Then the spins they might put on that story. People always have different motives, too, for telling stories like that. Different effects they want. Sometimes it's to make a point in a relationship. These stories--the hearing of which--can also be a rite of passage. The way you want to do this is have a story that no one actually has, which is also believable as this kind of shared story.

Came up with an idea for a story about a trans person--a young person. There's an element of this in "Transitionings" in There Is No Doubt: Story Girls, and also in "Captain Enclave," which will be in Become Your Own Super Hero: Modern Life in Twenty Easy Stories. Actually, it's right there at the start of both of those stories, in the opening sections. But this will be all the way through.

I came up with most of what will be an excellent ghost story, called "The Second House." Figured that would be the next horror story I wrote, but then I began "An Eye in the Door." That's how it is here--there's always something new on top of something new. My job description could be: I preside over a boundless imagination. This morning I went back into "Caves and Waterfalls," and started reworking it from the beginning. It's 3100 words now.

I pitched something on the first Just William book, which came out in 1922, and was the most influential book that John Lennon ever read, which helped give his childhood a magical quality--that same magical quality of childhood that he'd take forward into some of his best work. It's relevant, too, to this other Beatles book I'll be doing. I thought it would just be about "Strawberry Fields Forever," as pertains to the relationship between childhood and genius, but that might be changing to include "Penny Lane," in which case the book will be called Understanding All You See: Childhood, Genius, the Beatles, and Rock's Greatest Single.

I pitched ideas on Sonny Clark and his best recordings, and also Count Basie 1937 and 1938. Pitched another Bessie Smith idea as well, this one for Halloween.

I need to crank it up on the nonfiction front. Got an idea for an op-ed about starting pitching, I need to write this Halloween piece on Children of the Stones, and a Christmas piece on Elvis's 1957 Christmas material. Then there are the nonfiction books. The situation I am in means that I have do everything at once. The fiction. The novels. The op-eds. The sports pieces. The arts pieces. The political pieces. All of the books. This journal. Can you imagine how difficult that is? I can't neglect any area. What you end up with is someone who works harder in every last one of these areas, than anyone else in publishing works on their one single thing. By far. And that's before we get into ability. Lastly: Eyeing Hallway Hermey yesterday, I couldn't help but thinking he'd cut quite the figure were he wearing a shirt that read, Respect the Elf.


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